As a small business, exhibiting at an event or trade show for the first time can be an exciting opportunity to make an impact in your industry, meet potential clients and grow your brand. The key to a successful exhibition is to plan it thoroughly in advance, which could be up to a year before your event. From setting your budget with your finance department right through to arranging the logistics of setting up at the event, there are a lot of important decisions to make.
Make sure you allow plenty of time for each step, so that you can ensure you get a good ROI for the cost of standing at an exhibition. To help you get started, here are four tips to follow when planning for your first exhibition or trade show as a small business:
1. Know your objectives
It's crucial to establish what your objectives are early on in the planning stage. Whilst it can be tempting to go in with vague objectives, you won't be able to maximize your ROI this way. You need to be crystal clear on why you're choosing this particular exhibition and what you want to achieve from it. Whatever your objectives may be, make sure you have set something that is measurable – even if it's something like the number of attendees you want to attract to your stand or the amount of promotional material you wish to distribute. Then, ensure the particular exhibition or show you're going to will provide you with the opportunity to fulfil your objectives.
For example, is your aim to generate as many new leads and sales as possible? If so, then a larger industry show with a huge footfall will be better for you. However, if you’re a smaller business looking to raise brand awareness then you might want to consider a smaller show where you can build better rapport with your audience.
You should, at this stage, carefully research all potential shows that are within your budget. Draw up a shortlist of events and then select the ones that are best suited to your brand and customers. Event organizers will provide businesses with data on their attendee numbers and audience profiles – so use this information to determine which show is right for you.
2. Make sure your stand attracts attention
Now that you've chosen your event and booked your space, you need to think about how your stand will attract the attention you want, and you'll need to invest in this. There's no point in spending most of your budget on an expensive show only to turn up with a stand that everyone will ignore.
With your objectives in mind, think about how you're going to attract attendees to your stand. What eye-catching design features can you use to make it stand out from the crowd? How can you ensure it closely aligns with your wider brand image so that people can remember you when they leave? When you have a good idea of this, it's worth creating a list of exhibition companies that can meet these requirements.
Try to find an exhibition company that will help you find the perfect design for your stand with a free 3D design offer. This will be of no cost to you and will help ensure that you create a stand that meets all of your requirements.
3. Create a pre-exhibition marketing plan
You'll need to plan your pre-exhibition publicity strategy well in advance of the show. Create a buzz on social media and send out a press pack to journalists in your industry. But before you even do this, decide what your integrated sales message is going to be. This will be the 'hook' you can use in pre-show marketing and the exhibition itself. Remember: consistency is key when it comes to your exhibition marketing.
At this stage, it's also good to consider who will be representing your business at the show. It goes without saying, you need customer-friendly people to be the face of your business at trade shows and events. But you need to make sure whoever you take along is clearly briefed on the objectives of the exhibition or trade show, and has a sound understanding of the specific products or services you'll be promoting.
4. Create a post-exhibition follow-up strategy
Whatever your exhibiting objectives are, generating leads will almost certainly be on the list. One of the biggest mistakes many businesses make is leaving it too late to follow up on their exhibition leads. In fact, many leave it months before getting in contact and then wonder why they have lost them.
To make sure you don’t fall into this trap, put together a lead follow-up plan before the event. Decide in advance how you're going to follow up the leads you gain, and how you're going to reach out to them. Assign people to this role, so you can contact people within a few days of the show.
Exhibiting requires a lot of time and investment, and don’t worry too much if you don’t get everything absolutely right. Exhibitions and shows are a fantastic way to grow your brand and network with others in the industry and potential customers, so keeping this in mind throughout the planning stage will help to ensure you get the most out of any event.
About the Author
Austin Rowlands is a content writer at leading exhibition company, Quadrant2Design, with extensive experience in the exhibition and events industry. Quadrant2Design is a specialist supplier of creative exhibition stands and is essentially a design-led company, but with a strong quality and project management based ethic. The company remains a proudly independent, family and staff orientated organisation.